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Transformation of the Week by:
Some 30 years ago, when our kids were toddlers, my wife and I built our 2100 SF home. Today we’re in our early 70’s, our kids live between 80 and 7,000 miles away and we’re glad we have room for them and for our grandchildren to come for extended visits. Between visits when we start wishing we had less house to take care of, we just have to remind ourselves of the advantages of having the room.
All the same, if one of our kids found a job close by and wanted to take over our house, we’ve made tentative plans to build a small house on our property. That’s one of the reasons that I always read these small house articles and why I’ve bought about every one of Sarah Susanka’s books.
I completely agree that there is a need to focus on good design and I'd add to that the need for quality - in construction and in materials and components.
If the consumer were brought into the design process, I wonder how many would insist on 7 gables and 3 different design styles on the same house.
P.S. I did NOT go with so-called new installation windows because I don't like the look and we would have had to pull siding off.
We had a contractor install replacement windows in our bathrooms and kitchen in the conventional way, that is by removing the old sashes and balance system and sliding in the replacement window. We were not happy with the result because we lost glass area and the look was quite frankly - ugly.
For the remaining windows on the house, we used a hybrid method. First the outside molding, the sashes, the balance system and the jambs were removed. (The inside casing and stool were left in place.) The replacement windows (from Lowes) were dimensioned to fit fairly snugly to the window rough framing.
The jambs of the new replacement windows went in tight against the inside casing and stool. After foaming, we put the outside molding back on. The result was no loss of glass area (some windows actually showed a gain.) and the look is just as good or better than that of the old windows.
P.S. I did go with so-called new installation windows because I don't like the look and we would have had to pull siding off.
Once it comes to the point of blasting the contractor or the homeowner on some website, the situation is just plain out of hand. I've made it a point to look ahead and see how to prevent things from going that far.
As a homeowner, I've had my share of experience with good and bad contractors - on both sides of the Atlantic. Before contracting out work, I try to inform myself as much as possible about how the work should be done. Fine Homebuilding's articles and videos have been a big help and of course investigating building code requirements. This helps me to evaluate prospective contractors and in the event of getting a bad one, to know when to fire the contractor before the problem gets really out of hand. Admittedly, being a retired civil engineer with structural experience and an enthusiastic DIYer, I may have an unfair advantage over the average homeowner. All the same, it has been necessary for me to fire contractors - in New York and in Switzerland.
One thing that makes the situation in Europe slightly better is widespread and uniform apprenticeship training. In the U.S. the on-the-job training that most young workers get depends largely on the competence of the contractor doing the training and this is just not uniformly good.
A couple tips for homeowners: Don't employ the contractor who talks the best. Insist on visiting him/her on one or more jobsites and in his/her shop. If you have to employ a contractor whom you do not know, employ him/her to do some work of limited scope. If you are satisfied with that, then maybe give him/her the whole addition to build.
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